Telc, Czech Republic - July 2000
The Reverend Doctor James Wiberg
Friday one of my Christ Care Group leaders called to invite us to join them for the day on a trip to the Czech Republic. Since the calendar had no appointments for the day Luray and I quickly agreed so we met our hosts at the "Little Russian Church" adjacent to the United Nations Center just across the Danube River and headed up the Autobahn toward Prague. By eleven in the morning we already had crossed the border having taken a lesser used crossing and found ourselves in the most delightful little village of Telcsh. The border between Austria and Hungary which winds along the Thaya River is separated by a large forest which is now a national park.
During the days of the Iron Curtain, the Communists had established a "no-man's land" on their side of this curvy river. At our crossing there was one only two border guards to check our passports on the Austrian side and two on the Czech side, a pretty "cushy" job I would say, since there were only a couple of cars traveling this route when we went through. The normal crossing on the way to Prague will sometimes back up a line of traffic about three miles long, especially when bargain hunters from Vienna head out for the weekend in the Czech Republic..
As we approached the town we entered from a
road which brought us right to the entrance of the old city castle.
Built on a site where the river forms a “horseshoe” the town is
naturally protected by water except
for the opening at the top end of the “shoe” Here the old high wall
is still much in view. It
rises to a height of 20 or
30 feet along the shores of a tributary of the Thaya River. Established
in 12th century, UNESCO has named this city as one of the
eight most significant cultural sites in the Czech Republic.
It’s value lies in its incorporation of Gothic, Renaissance and
baroque architecture and, of course, that the wars have left this more
isolated village unscathed.
After walking through one
part of the city and checking out the Guesthouses we settled for the
dining room at the Hotel Celerin >http://www.cxn.cx/CELERIN<, a
restaurant near the south end of the town’s square.
Here we dined on typical Czech fare.
Since it was a partly cloudy and windy day we chose a table near
the corner window inside the restaurant rather than on the patio. It was
hard to resist the delicious collection of desserts in the display case
but we consoled ourselves by promising each other that it would taste
better after a long walk through the city and a climb up the steeple
stairs to the church bell tower.
Al and Sue Liebetrau our
hosts had checked out the area before coming and had also talked with
friends at the UN about the attractions of this city.
Crystal and glass are particular items sold here at very
reasonable prices. Minerals and antiques are a close second and then the
normal kitsch---clothes, electronics, trinkets, carpets, etc.
Since the city has become somewhat of a tourist attraction
there were crowds of people in every shop.
Performing in the middle of the square was a native Czech Dance
Group tantalizing the audience with the swift movement of their feet and
the lively music of a little combo..
After about an hour and the completion of the ascent to the
bell tower, we set out on a stroll around the city wall to a marvelous
park filled with flowers of every color.
As we strolled, the babble of different languages continues to
confuse me and I am still no better at distinguishing Czech from Turkish
or Slovakian from Hungarian even after almost a year here in the central
part of Europe. However, I am starting to understand a bit more of this
German I listen to all of the time in the street and on the subway.
Having rested our muscles
and refurbished our bellies with good old Vienna city water which we had
brought along in old soda bottles, we decided to take a cut-off trail
through the ruins of an old building.
The trail led to a path along the river, but here we encountered
a tent village with many, many campers, mostly young people, but some
couples with children as well.
As I gazed upon the city
across the river from the park and campground, I had no trouble
imagining the cold war era. Along
the Thaya River to the south of this city, on a high promontory on the
Austria side would be another scenic overlook.
Now both of these are overlooks are equipped with roofs and
benches, so looking back a few years I can see in my mind's eye the
Austrians and Czechs surveying each other with binoculars and probably
wishing that this foolish wall would come down so that they could go
talk to their neighbors again.
And now, in 2000 the wall
is down; the fences have been removed; a bridge has been built; the
gates are opened; the people are crossing and criss-crossing formerly
forbidden territory and the border guards do not have any ostentatious
display of weaponry. What a change in 10 years. And the Czechs will
probably be one of the first former east-block countries to gain
entrance into the European Union.
After enjoying the view
of Telsch from the park across the river we headed for that dessert menu
at a little Cafe on the border and ordered up our Cappuccinos, ice
coffees, and coffee mélanges', this time from a pleasant dining room in
a brand new facility.
The skies were now clear
as setting sun ushered in the stillness of its evening repose. A few
tired pilgrims from another world could review again the strange events
and twists and turns that have brought us to another section of the
globe. Our short little moments of repose are only a small snippet in
the adventures of princes and counts and ladies in waiting who have
occupied this place since 1200 a.d. but it was sufficient for us to draw
a mental picture and hear the voices of the past speak to us from over
Soon our day in the
country was at an end. Sue and Al dropped us off at a subway entrance
near their house and we headed back to the apartment where I could
continue to wrestle with the text for Sunday's sermon.
THINK GLOBALLY- ACT LOCALLY - PRAY FOR WORLD PEACE